The Game: Ever had a sweet tooth? Now you are the sweet tooth – or teeth, as the case may be. You guide a set of clattering teeth around a mazelike screen of horizontal rows; an opening in each row travels down the wall separating it from the next row. Your job is to eat the tasty treats lining each row until you’ve cleared the screen. Naturally, it’s not just going to be that easy. There are nasty hard candies out to stop you, and they’ll silence those teeth of yours if they catch you – and that just bites. Periodically, a treat appears in the middle of the screen allowing you to turn the tables on them for a brief interval. Sierra On-Line, 1982
Memories: Faced with the threat of imminent legal action from Atari, Sierra – known by its original name, On-Line Systems – yanked the very Pac-Man-like Jawbreaker off the market, replacing it with a new version that was less obviously attempting to copy the game mechanics of Pac-Man. Those familiar with the Atari 2600 edition of Jawbreaker will find this game familiar: the maze is out, and the horizontal rows of dots with “sliding doors” are in. Though there are still elements similar to Pac-Man – at this point, really just the power pellet-like energizers in the four corners of the screen – the whole thing is different.
Some elements remain the same, though, creating a bit of a consistent continuum for the Jawbreaker games – when your moving jaws get caught, it still disturbingly knocks your teeth out, for example – and of course there’s still a “candy” theme. In both Jawbreaker games, I cringe uncomfortably at the sight of the player’s teeth falling apart. Yikes.
Jawbreaker II is a prime example of necessity brewing something interesting and new in the world of video games. Where the original Jawbreaker was clearly a Pac-Man clone – a clever one, mind you, but still obviously a clone – its follow-up is an interesting new take on the same basic genre.